Working Men's Mission Hall, Basingstoke 1905-28
From its opening in February 1905 until its transfer to the Methodists in 1928, the Working Men’s Mission Hall in George Street, Basingstoke, served as a non-denominational place of worship for those living in the vicinity. As it was put at the opening ceremony, it was the ‘earnest desire’ of those behind the enterprise that ‘souls might be saved there and that the preaching of the Gospel in that Hall might be made a means of blessing to the neighbourhood.’ Costing £220, it could accommodate 250 persons and was described as ‘being very comfortable’ and presenting ‘a light and attractive appearance’. It is not known who initiated the Hall’s construction. Although formally un-denominational, it attracted a considerable amount of support from Nonconformists and well-wishers within Basingstoke and beyond. For example, the Hall was formally opened by Mr B.B. Pond from Andover and William Buckland, Basingstoke’s mayor, presided at the evening meeting. At this event, it was made clear that the ‘Hall had not been erected in any spirit of opposition to any other Church.’ Not surprisingly, perhaps, the mood at the Hall’s opening was buoyant and optimistic. The formal opening and afternoon tea, as well as the evening meeting were all exceptionally well attended. By 1910 the debt on the Hall had been cleared. In many respects the Hall functioned just like the other Nonconformist places of worship in Basingstoke, with regular Sunday services; a range of associated organisations, including a Sunday school, a branch of the Band of Hope, a Christian Endeavour Society, a clothing club and, for a time, an orchestra; camp meetings; and social events and entertainments of various kinds. Annual anniversary celebrations were also an important feature in the life of the Hall, which appears to have thrived during the First World War and well into the 1920s. However, a few weeks after the 1928 anniversary celebrations, it was announced that: ‘The Trustees of the Working Men’s Mission Hall in George Street, which … [had] heretofore been carried on as an independent religious organisation, recently met and unanimously decided to offer the Mission Hall to the Wesleyan Methodist Church.’ Although no reasons were given, it is possible that the decision had been prompted by the ‘heavy losses sustained by the lamented deaths’ of two key figures in the running of the Mission, Messrs Lane and Laney. At the 1928 anniversary they had been described as ‘devoted and generous workers in the Mission.’
(For the source of the quotations please see the pdf link below)
Content derived during research for the new VCH Hampshire volume, Basingstoke and its surroundings.